Thursday, July 31, 2014

The New "Market-Driven"

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The new "market driven" is really a developing science of how individuals create relationships with communities.  I think what the average content creator would love to have at his side is an army but how in the world, full of ADD and apathy, do you get anyone to care?


I don't mean to say everyone should go to hell.  I mean to say that you have to have a baseline faith that their are others like you and they will come if you speak loud enough and long enough.  Don't try to make people care.  Just you care and learn how to express that effectively with what you have available.

I think that what's market driven for studios is passion driven for no-budgets and the difference is that traditional marketing applies administrative organization to what they define as audience where the no-budgets let passion run its course without attempting to capitalize on the long-game.

A Conversation with A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES Writer/Director Scott Frank

There's a website called Slack where I'm trying to organize a group around story development.  It's tough going.  There's no immediate incentive as with all things creative, and it takes an internal drive which is often confused against the day-to-day distractions and external obligations.

While trying to find articles to inspire that undertaking I came across an interview with Scott Frank pushing his new film.  In this discussion was some insight, perhaps a little jaded, on writing in the film industry today. There's a nod to the strength of television and the viability of independent production.  There's also a sense, though likely far removed as he's a long-time studio guy, that the new financing models, and we'll go ahead and add digital filmmaking and online marketing tools, have changed the way films get made. Both long time professionals and emerging artists have gotten wind of it and its making a difference even in career consideration and things have become more flexible and more complicated.

For what it's worth 'A Walk Among the Tombstones" looks just as dark, disturbing and ultimately cool as I'd hope a noire today can be.  But Scott is worried about the audience turnout.

Seed & Spark has been championing the move to crowd-funding with best-practices advice that is now not uncommon.  Though there are helpful reminders and new spins on the advice which urge us to take some things more seriously (e.g. don't plead, once you launch you should launch hard and don't stop, figure out your tone by talk to members of your core audience, etc.).

What's being explained here is what the Studios and the their like can't wrap their head around because it's too close to the ground floor.  (I'm comparing Scott's insider insight and his interest in doing things differently with the phenomenon he's obviously becoming aware of that Seed & Spark is advocating).  YOU, with nothing little left to lose, save the skin off your back and maybe your mind, can be as flexible and as involved with your people  as you want to be.  There are less rules to follow but also less guidelines.  In a way not having direct guidance, the Hollywood machine to set you on the conveyor belt, is a real opportunity to make non-fatal mistakes as often as you need to.

[Disclaimer: I think ^^ up to a certain point.  Small communities will be more forgiving than larger ones as debate can upset momentum and is easier to forgive when less mouths are chatting.  Not sure what the number is but maybe an indie filmmaker needs to set follower milestones to reassess his audience.  And remember you can't please everyone.  There's a cool game called Democracy 3 on Steam where you play a global leader and it's actually quite tricky not to be assassinated, let alone re-elected.]

Biting the bullet to get started is much harder.

I myself have been breaking my head over how to effectively communicate for my story-verse in development and in truth trying to figure out each day where to start - do I spend the first four hours learning photoshop or illustrator for my materials or do I spend the first four hours writing new backstory or do I spend this time having an epic grudgematch with some NLE or another or do I record outreach videos for the community.

You need an audience but just as important is that you need a team that believes in you and you have to believe in yourself enough to go and recruit one.

Reminder: if you're going to lead your vision has to be big enough to fit the visions of others within it.

You might not be able to pay, you might not be able to make a guarantee of pay or some other ROI but this business is about risk from the start and the biggest risk of all is when you bet on someone that may quit on you.

Image Credit: "Where is our Million Man March"
Don't be a quitter.  No matter what, when you find something to go after and its important enough to ask for help, you better be prepared to make every day count and go down with the ship because the only excuse an investor/crew member/ business partner/audience member shouldn't have to hear is that you gave up.  They signed on because they found something in you they needed and wanted and finally, that admittance given, your purpose is stamped.

The hardest part of being independent, is that you traded being a slave to someone else's cause for being a slave to your own.  The road is damned-tough but often just as equally glorious if you can pull through.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Are you the right producer?

How to Find The Right Producer for Your Indie Film

There are a lot of storytellers starting out wondering what exactly a producer does.

At some point you get it.  The re-occurring phrase that seems to settle the debate is that producers produce.

In some way they bring resources to the table that enable the completion of a project.  The lead producer is someone who can speak everyone else's language and move things along keeping his eye on the horizon, the finished project, and the audience it's meant for.

The article provides a perspective from an indie financier that may occasionally be in a position to matchmake a show with an appropriate producer if it feels inclined to do so.  The list provided is a researched list of award winners and obviously the scale reflect a professional level beyond the no/micro budget productions you're used to at the start.

But that doesn't mean the work can't be replicated on our end.  The problem we have is that we don't have the awareness or the market approval on a micro-budget level in order to begin understanding who the players are in our limited economy.

Does that make sense?

There are no best practices for student level marketing and distribution.  There is a terrible lack of discipline regarding no-budget exposure to any audience.  For all the tremendous work done against amazing challenges, few give themselves the opportunity to move up because of the doubt and lack of structure available necessary to gain traction.

This is why gatekeepers are partly the emerging artist's manifestation.  We will create this obstruction and place it upon ourselves as much as the world may be interested in doing so to control revenue.  But it can't exists without compliance, especially now with digital technology and social media evolved to the point it has.

So I want to add to the definition of what a lead producer should be with the understanding that I'm talking to the filmmakers still unknown, still dark horses, still working on their next severely constricted attempt to enter the industry, find someone wildly ambitious, a tiny bit nihilistic and willing to defy conventions of class and privilege.  Find someone who only sees advantages and uses all them while deftly avoiding baseless skepticism and the type of apathy that makes most beautiful things fall apart before they've started.

Realize that those born into the industry or with greater sources don't have to work nearly so hard to motivate themselves.  They're in the room already.  Their type of hunger and desperation is an entirely different animal.  If you're 25 to 35, can't find sustainable middle income employment without selling your soul and need to make this work, you're going to have to get crazy and hold onto other crazy people for dear life.

If we do this, we'll have notable players, we'll have discourse within our community on the styles and capacity of specific people and their impact on local communities, we'll be able to delegate opportunities with greater understanding, the same way the industry does because it sets up all this opportunity for recognition.  If we act the part, it's much easier to step into the position when the time comes.  But it takes a group effort and it takes absolute loyalty to an ideal.

Find your partners, leave nay-saying behind and forge a path.  Then no one can deny you are a producer and can make things happen.


P.S. Article takeaway:
There's a list of indie producers you can research to make a match to your project but follow the guidelines on how to do the homework and I recommend writing a film business plan.  Buy a book.  I've got Jusso's book on it and it's pretty straight forward but it does take an investment to get all the financial projections - a few grand but totally worth it if you want to be the real deal.  You won't have nearly so much doubt in yourself if you do the work and real confidence comes from knowledge which is why knowledge is powerful and confidence is such a big part of the sale.

Or you can try and get lucky and bluff your way through a meeting but the quicker way up usually comes with just as quick a way down.  Just sayin'.

Monday, July 21, 2014

VOD Numbers

Read: EXCLUSIVE: Harvey Weinstein Explains How 'Snowpiercer' Became a Gamechanger, We Crunch Theater vs. VOD Numbers

The industry has been in pursuit of hard numbers to prove maximum yield.  The most valuable takeaway here is that deals are flexible and everyone has to adapt.  As technology evolves, legacy players have to shake loose their expectations and play ball because audiences will go where they will.  The additional temptation to see this breakdown and assume it can be repeated is a sirensong; all patterns are broken as quickly as they emerge.  The only thing that can be appreciated is new distribution is a force of nature and it's better to embrace the changes than restrict them when new companies and initiatives are building all around you.  To emphasize the point: all my interest for the BC film society, BC community films, and our potential audience base, is built with an inherent interest in digital distribution as the priority medium for release because digital technology and social media favor lower costing advertising and provide better opportunities to emphasize a ground-game providing a more loyal relationship with viewers.  That Indiewire is calling this a "gamechanger" when my expectations starting out is that this is the go-to mechanic with theatrical a far second, suggests that opportunity for indie-company with nothing to lose will build their strength by disrupting the market for veteran company's with roots dug in too far and too alienated from a more democratic, niche driven indie platform.  I'll add I've come to admit my perspective is that of someone trying to break in rather than retain structure.  All tools are at the disposal of an individual or group with nothing to lose.
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Thursday, July 17, 2014



 At the end of the article, the creator of the app is quoted as saying it's more about seeing into the collective subconscious of your friends.

That feels new...well at least new to see that sentiment exploited as an app and for profit.  I'm not aware of the competitors. 

I hadn't thought about it till now: I think we want to know that people are feeling and experiencing intimate and personal things so that we can feel OK expressing ours. I think, on some level, it's comforting to know that everyone isn't as fine as their last selfie suggests. 

That idea is worth $100 million apparently.

Ideas are worth so much.  But who has the time to air out the kinks?  Who has nothing better to do than survive?  The economy's changed so much in the last 30 years that for anyone below a certain income level to invest any energy in a dream is . . . brave.

I think everyone has something they need to get off their chest and some of those people become story tellers, or filmmakers more specifically.

But we can't be anonymous at that point.  We have to be bold, outspoken and have a level of emotional resilience that can get pretty close to fanatical for those working without a safety net, a connection, experience, a proven track.

The intrepid filmmaker needs a place to get straightened out.  And that should be school but I don't think it is because the institution typically doesn't have the incentive to level the playing field.

With Secrets being worth a $100 million, I think about the money paid for the passions expressed in film and realize there is great value in human perception.  People want to know when others are struggling, feeling, growing.  Secrets are the heart of stories - the height of character arc or the revelation of a plot twist.

So no wonder...

Much to consider as I develop my next script.